Bowling is near and dear to my heart. But I’m terrible at it. If I reach a score of 60, I’ve had a good game. With baseball as the only sport I’ve ever really followed, I guess I’ve applied what I know about baseball to bowling: strikes are bad. You don’t want them. So I steer clear of them. And sometimes steer right down the middle of the slippery lane—on my belly—as balls have been known not to release from my hand and pull me down the shiny wooden floor. It’s so hard to find a ball light enough to control but with finger holes large enough not to get stuck. The kiddie balls—the only ones I have a chance of keeping out of the gutter—are just too tight around my fingers.
It’s hopeless. So you may ask, if I’m so terrible, why is it important to me? Because bowling was how I met my husband Jason. Our mutual friend Mary introduced us at Marina Towers bowling alley in Chicago. (Marina Towers are those two tall buildings on the Chicago River that look like corncobs.) Or at least I thought that was how we met.
A friend of mine, Jana, and I were invited in September of ’85 to a boat party that would transport us down the Chicago River and out onto Lake Michigan. A mutual friend of ours, Mark, was having a boat party with a few friends of his, who each could invite 12 guests. Jana and I were two of his dozen.
I didn’t really want to go. Jana tried to coax me. She didn’t want to go alone. I didn’t want to go at all. She kept asking. Finally, I said, kind of throwing it out to the universe, okay, I’ll go, but only if I meet my prince charming there, the man of my dreams, who’ll I’ll marry so I’ll not have to date anyone else ever again. (I’d been through a couple of recent trying dating relationships and was so done with all that.) I thought the stipulation would get me off the hook. Jana said, okay, I’m sure that could be worked out. Go get changed. You’re coming. It felt like she wasn’t taking the negotiations as seriously as I would have liked.
When we got to the dock and stepped off the gangplank, Mark met Jana and me with an offered rose to each of us. Turns out, poor guy, his girlfriend/future wife (they didn’t know that yet) had gotten stuck on a business trip out of town, so he couldn’t give her the dozen roses he’d bought for her. So Jana and I and the other ten guests of Mark each got one. We accepted our roses, boarded, and I immediately looked around, scoping out the crowd. Okay, I said to Jana, where is he? Where is the guy I’m going to marry? She laughed and said let’s go find some people we know. I said, no really. I meant that. Part of the deal of coming with you. She laughed again, but then dropped it. See? She wasn’t taking it seriously.
The boat filled up, we left the dock, went up and down the river for a bit then transferred through the locks to get out onto Lake Michigan. Turns out, in spite of myself, I loved it. It was beautiful. As the sun set and the water glistened with the reflection of the skyline, the view was spectacular.
As the evening progressed, Jana and I mingled and met other people. I ventured down to the lower deck for a while to the food and drink table. There were some fantastic brownies there. I hung out with those for a while, visiting with other brownie lovers, including a guy and his date serving them (or maybe just pretending to serve them so they could keep testing them). After some fun with the food and having communed with other chocolate lovers, I went back up top to enjoy the night breeze and sights and sounds of water voyage before the evening ended and we headed back to shore.
Jana said, see? Not so bad. She was right. It was incredible. I was so glad I’d gone. Even though the negotiated details didn’t come to fruition, the experience was amazingly memorable. I’m glad Jana made me go.
It was such an astounding memory for me, after the bowling alley incident where the mutual friend introduced Jason and me, and after Jason and I were dating for a bit and were pretty sure it was a keeper, I was telling him about this incredible party I’d gone to the previous fall. I described it in minute detail, the docks, the boat, the locks, the water. I told him about the party and the food—especially the brownies—and the people, so friendly and fun. And how incredibly cool the Lake is at night, on a boat, in early autumn, along the shore of the Chicago skyline. I went on and on. I really wanted him to appreciate what a spectacular experience it was. Then I told him a little bit of the details about Mark that I’d learned, because I’d since gotten to know more of his friends. He’d put on the boat party with three other friends of his whom he’d gone with to Mexico, kind of these bachelor buddies who did all kinds of things together. I said I knew Bob was one of Mark's friends, a guy Jason knew. And Chip. Another of the friends I’d met. There was one other I didn’t know, but he was the fourth guy who’d rented the boat with Mark, and Bob, and Chip.
Jason really liked my story, and how enthusiastic I was about it. His response encouraged me to elaborate more and more. It was truly a highlight of my experiences in Chicago up to that point. Finally he chuckled. I said what? Why are you laughing.
He paused. Then finally he said—It was me. I was the fourth guy. That was my boat party. I was the brownie guy.
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